STL Science Center

STL Science Center

18 March 2017

Legislative Dinosaurs

Photo provided to Arkansas Geological Society by ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster
In the past few months there have been a lot of dinosaur stories circulating in the popular news and one of the most relevant to the middle of the United States is the announcement of a new state dinosaur. That dinosaur is named Arkansaurus fridayi and is known from a few bones found by a farmer searching for a cow. In 1972 a man named J. B. Friday was searching his farm in southwest Arkansas and stumbled, almost literally, over a fossil dinosaur foot in the remains of a road cut, which is problematic. Any remaining fossil material may have been destroyed in the construction efforts, by water flow before or after burial, or scavenging prior to burial. The remains were initially described by members of the 1973 SVP meeting as an Ornithomimus which would represent the oldest member  of the species ever recovered. The animal remained informally named Arkansaurus fridayi for 30 years before it was re-described by ReBecca K. Hunt-Foster (published as an abstract under her maiden name; ReBecca K. Hunt). Considering this is the only publication of any type describing these dinosaur remains we will refer to the animal this week with italics rather than quotations; a difference typically separating formally described and accepted genera and species from those used informally. This remains a controversial name, but in defiance (or disregarding the informal nature of the name) the state of Arkansas recently passed a bill making the only dinosaur material known from the state the state's official dinosaur fossil. There is more significance than just naming Arkansaurus the state dinosaur; Arkansaurus is now the 25th official state symbol and Arkansas was the 25th state admitted to the United States.

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